Spending to save  MAR 05 2007

Advertising Age reports (via gulfstream) that despite having spent as much as a reported $100 million on advertising and promotion, the (RED) campaign has raised only $18 million to fight AIDS in Africa. (RED) CEO Bobby Shriver responds by saying that the amount will soon be $25 million, they're in it for the long haul, and that there are non-monetary benefits to all of the advertising -- "A phenomenal benefit is that Gap, Apple, Sprint and other sales people are meeting Americans and explaining that 5,500 Africans dying daily of AIDS is preventable".

The (RED) campaign strikes me as part of a larger trend in the US (and perhaps elsewhere too): the idea that if you, the consumer, spend normally (or even increase your spending), it is possible to break the law of conservation of energy and somehow save more money or lives. Other examples of the spend-to-save trend include the Discover Card Cashback Bonus program, the Bank of America Keep the Change program, and hundreds of retail promotions where, golly, if you spend another $20 on something you don't need, you get a free something that you really don't need.

It seems to me that if The Gap really cared about stopping HIV/AIDS in Africa, they would just donate the $7.8 million they spend on (RED) advertising to the Clinton Foundation. If Discover really cared about saving you money, they'd lower their APR to prime + 1.

I realize that the entire US economy is a house of cards kept standing by the escalation of spending and credit card debt by American consumers, but the sad fact is that to save money, you need to cut spending or increase income. And if you really want to help fight AIDS in Africa, instead of buying that (RED) Gap t-shirt for which Gap will donate 50% of its profit to The Global Fund, buy a cheaper one at American Apparel and send the $13 difference to the Global Fund yourself.

Read more posts on kottke.org about:
AIDS   charity   economics   fashion   gap   red

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